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Native Plant of the Week: Switchgrass

Family: Poaceae

Name: Panicum virgatum

Bloom Time: August - October

'Flower': Airy Panicles

Soil Condition: Dry, Moist, Adaptable

Light: Sun to Partial Shade

Height: 4-7' tall by

Native Range: North America including Long Island

Zone: 3 to 9

Pictures: Panicum virgatum (Forest and Kim Starr, CC BY 4.0), Panicum v. 'Shenandoah' (KMS), Panicum v. 'Northwind' (KMS)

Panicum virgatum is an absolutely fantastic native grass for the garden. It provides four-season interest. The clean blue-green foliage and airy 'flower panicles' add a lovely delicate texture to the garden. In the fall it turns a lovely shade of yellow, and unlike most ornamental grasses, it stands up to winter snow and wind. As an additional bonus, it feeds the birds from late summer through winter. Absolutely stunning en masse, especially when backlit by the setting sun. Makes a great vertical focal point in a planter.

Noteworthy Cultivars:

Panicum virgatum 'Cape Breeze': 3' tall

Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah': 3-4' tall

Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal': 4-5' tall

Panicum virgatum 'Northwind': 4-6' tall

Maintenance: It is not necessary but you may cut it back in late winter to early spring before new growth begins. Birds use the dried foliage and stem for nest making. Even better, lay it around the main plant as compost.

Benefits: Host plant to several Skippers and Common Wood-Nymph. Birds eat the seeds in the fall and winter. Salt tolerant. Deer resistant. Black Walnut (juglone) tolerant. Clay soil tolerant.

Companion Plants: Aster oblongifolius (Aromatic Aster), Rudbeckia fulgida var. fulgida (Black-eyed Susan), Solidago species (Goldenrod), Liatris scariosa var novae-angliae (New England Blazing Star), Monarda species (Bee Balm and Wild Bergamot), Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)



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